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Pharma Stock Roundup: AZN to Buy FUSN, PFE to Sell Stake in HLN & Other Updates

This week AstraZeneca AZN announced a definitive agreement to acquire Fusion Therapeutics FUSN to accelerate the development of next-generation radioconjugates to treat cancer. Pfizer PFE plans to sell some shares of consumer healthcare firm Haleon to bring down its stake from 32% to 24%. An FDA advisory committee voted unanimously for expanding the use of J&J’s JNJ CAR-T therapy, Carvykti, for earlier lines of multiple myeloma. Merck’s MRK phase III study evaluating a Keytruda-based combination in a first-line lung cancer indication failed to meet its primary goals.

Recap of the Week’s Most Important Stories

AstraZeneca to Buy Fusion Pharmaceuticals: AstraZeneca announced plans to acquire Fusion Pharmaceuticals, a Canadian company, which makes next-generation radiopharmaceuticals. Fusion has a diversified pipeline of targeted alpha therapy (TAT) programs. These targeted treatments minimize damage to nearby healthy cells and are being seen as potential replacements for traditional regimens like chemotherapy and radiotherapy for treating cancer. Fusion already has a collaboration with AstraZeneca to jointly develop novel TATs and combination programs between Fusion's TATs and AstraZeneca's DNA Damage Response Inhibitors and immuno-oncology agents.

Fusion’s key clinical-stage pipeline candidate is FPI-2265, a small molecule-based TAT targeting prostate-specific membrane antigen, in phase II studies for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. A phase III registrational study is expected to begin in 2025.


For the acquisition, AstraZeneca will pay a price of $21.00 per share in cash plus a non-transferable contingent value (CV) payment of $3.00 per share in cash on achievement of a specified regulatory milestone. The upfront cash and CV payment add up to a total transaction value of approximately $2.4 billion.

Merck’s Keytruda Combo First-Line NSCLC Study Fails: Merck’s phase III study evaluating Keytruda plus Lynparza maintenance for the first-line treatment of certain patients with metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) failed to meet its dual primary endpoints of overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS).

In NSCLC, Keytruda is approved for six indications in the United States and for advanced lung cancer in 95 countries. In its research efforts for lung cancer, Merck is exploring Keytruda in earlier stages of the disease while also studying new combinations and coformulations with Keytruda.

FDA Advisory Panel Votes for Expanded Use of J&J’s Carvykti: The FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee voted unanimously to recommend the expanded use of J&J’s multiple myeloma drug Carvykti for earlier lines of treatment based on data from the phase III CARTITUDE-4 study. J&J is looking for the expansion of Carvykti’s label to include treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma who have received at least one prior line of therapy, including a proteasome inhibitor (PI) and an immunomodulatory agent (IMiD) and who are refractory to Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Revlimid (lenalidomide). At present, Carvykti is approved for the treatment of adults with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma after four or more prior lines of therapy, including a PI, an IMiD agent and an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody. After reviewing data from the CARTITUDE-4 study, the committee found the risk-benefit assessment of Carvykti for the proposed expanded use favorable.

Pfizer to Sell Stake in Haleon: Pfizer plans to sell 630 million ordinary shares of Haleon in an underwritten offering. The sale of 630 million ordinary shares should be worth around $2.5 billion. Additionally, per a previous plan approved by Haleon shareholders, Pfizer will sell some shares worth approximately $400 million (£315 million) directly to Haleon. These two transactions will reduce Pfizer’s stake in Haleon from 32% to 24% Haleon was a consumer health joint venture (JV) jointly created by Pfizer and GSK in 2019. GSK/Pfizer divested the CHC JV to form the company Haleon in July 2022.

The NYSE ARCA Pharmaceutical Index declined 0.1% in the last five trading sessions.

Large Cap Pharmaceuticals Industry 5YR % Return

Large Cap Pharmaceuticals Industry 5YR % Return
Large Cap Pharmaceuticals Industry 5YR % Return

Large Cap Pharmaceuticals Industry 5YR % Return

Here’s how the eight major stocks performed in the last five trading sessions.

Zacks Investment Research
Zacks Investment Research

Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

In the last five trading sessions, Merck rose the most (2.6%), while Novo Nordisk declined the most (3.5%).

In the past six months, Novo Nordisk has risen the most (42.5%), while Pfizer has declined the most (16.1%).

(See the last pharma stock roundup here: AZN’s New Acquisition, FDA Updates for NVO & LLY and More)

What's Next in the Pharma World?

Watch for regular pipeline and regulatory updates next week.

Pfizer, Merck, AstraZeneca and J&J have a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) each. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) : Free Stock Analysis Report

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Fusion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (FUSN) : Free Stock Analysis Report

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